Although Google has pushed hard to make Google Docs a worthy competitor to Microsoft Office, there’s always been a sense that Docs just couldn’t stack up. As a web-based program, Google Docs lacked the features, ease-of-use, and stability of Office–it’s an online convenience, certainly, but no where close to a replacement for Microsoft’s suite of products.
But today, Google took steps to grow its role beyond just an online supplement to Office–and, in doing so, is going right into Microsoft’s backyard.
On Thursday, the search giant unveiled a new tool to sync Microsoft Office with Google Docs, creating a seamless transition from one program to the next. Called Cloud Connect, the plugin installs to the toolbar of any Office application, whether Word, Excel or PowerPoint, and enables users to “share and simultaneously edit” documents. Using the Google plugin, all files and revisions are synced to the cloud and continuously backed up through Google.
Rather than try to reinvent the wheel, it appears Google is trying to better integrate itself with market leader Microsoft by doing what it does best: cloud computing and real-time collaboration. As an ad for the new plugin says, “You gain all the benefits of the cloud without learning anything new or updating existing software.”
Similar plugins already exist, but none that pose as much a threat to Microsoft as Google. If the product were to ever to become popular, it’d be a huge branding coup for Google: a Google toolbar incorporated prominently into one of Microsoft’s most ubiquitous programs.
And we’ve seen this strategy before from Google. Remember when it first added the Google search toolbar to Internet Explorer? Or when it added Google Desktop on Windows?
Unless Microsoft is careful, Office might be next–regardless of whether ol’ Clippy has been able to fend off competitors in the past.